Issues with Malaysia will be handled ‘calmly and constructively’: PM Lee

03-Jan-2019 Intellasia | Yahoo News Singapore | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Singapore will handle its disputes with Malaysia “calmly and constructively”, said prime minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday (31 December).

Both nations “must manage specific problems, however difficult, while preserving the overall relationship”, said the 66-year-old leader in his New Year message.

“The way to do so is through equality and mutual respect, upholding international commitments and the rule of law,” he added.

Among the bilateral issues Lee addressed was Malaysia’s request to defer the High Speed Rail project, for which Singapore extended its cooperation to “accommodate their needs”.

However, he noted that the “new disputes on maritime boundaries, following provocative intrusions into our territorial waters, and on airspace, particularly the Instrument Landing System (ILS) rules for Seletar Airport, are more difficult to resolve”.

Lee also reiterated Singapore’s “clear” stand on Malaysia’s intention to revise the price of Johor water.

Spats inevitable between ‘close neighbours’

As “two close neighbours tightly bound by history, economics, culture and kinship”, Lee observed that such bilateral spats will inevitably arise from time to time.

“Older Singaporeans will remember that this is how we dealt with previous rough patches in bilateral relations.

“Each time we would unite as one people, and stand our ground calmly but firmly,” said Lee, who expressed confidence that Singaporeans would once again work together to keep relations with Malaysia stable.

Referring to Malaysia’s new government, which was formed in May, and Singapore’s crop of fourth-generation politicians, Lee also said he looks forward to “new leaders on both sides developing good working relations with one another”.

Economic uncertainties ahead, leadership transition

Lee opened his message noting that Singapore’s economy grew 3.3 per cent in 2018, which was “close to 2017, and above our expectations”.

While the government expects growth of 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent in 2019, there are also “major uncertainties in the global economy, with growing trade conflicts, nervous financial markets and signs of slowing growth”, he said.

Lee also observed how “significant headway” had been made in terms of Singapore’s leadership succession. Following a Cabinet reshuffle earlier this year, he noted that younger political office holders have been exposed to new responsibilities and are working together as a team.

“They have settled on (Finance minister) Heng Swee Keat as their leader, and supported Swee Keat’s choice of (Minister for Trade and Industry) Chan Chun Sing to be his deputy,” said Lee.

“This is a good outcome. It gives Singaporeans and foreigners alike confidence that Singapore will be in good hands over the long term, beyond the working lives of me and my senior colleagues.”


Category: Singapore

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